After the federal government ended weekly $600 payments to unemployment Americans in July, unemployment insurance benefits dipped below the poverty line for residents in 13 states.
This finding comes from a new report released by the Government Accountability Office on Monday, which pointed to a number of the government’s failures in providing Americans with the support they need to weather—as well as simply survive—the pandemic.
According to the report, the average weekly UI in these 13 states fell to less than $245 a week, the minimum weekly income necessary to live above poverty in the United States. The same was true of the average Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits in 29 out of the 41 states that shared their data with the GAO.
And many of the people trying to keep their heads above water with these meager benefits may actually be getting shortchanged: The GAO says the majority of states opted to give PUA claimants the minimum benefit to move things along faster, rather than basing their benefits on what they earned last year.
PUA expires in less than a month along with the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which will leave about 12 million jobless people with no benefits at all unless Congress acts. But as Jezebel’s Ashley Reese reminded us a couple of weeks ago, help is not on the way. On Nov. 17, Politico reported that there were exactly zero conversations happening about pandemic relief legislation, and though there are some murmurs about it now, Congress remains gridlocked.
As far as I can tell, our fate lies with a bipartisan group of Senate lawmakers that will engage in discussions and deal-making in the coming weeks to try to push through some sort of resolution by Dec. 11. The Hill reports that this all-star team is made up of the likes of Senators Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, and Joe Manchin, so you could say I’m not feeling all that confident about what will come of these negotiations, if anything does.